Tuesday night, Karen McTague, one of my associates and I met with a group of people mostly from Blackford County at the Miller Purdue Farm in Grant County to listen to a legislative update from several levels of government.
We were invited by Elaine Gillis, a longtime friend of the food bank who was just appointed to the board of the state Soybean Alliance. Our thanks to the Townsend family for hosting the event.
We met in an open air barn that was built around 1850 and is now on the list for historical preservation. It was a hot, but wonderful evening to meet several families from the agricultural community and hear from folks who represent us.
The Farm Bill that has ping-ponged in Congress this year is still under development in the House. The most recent information that I have heard is that a $40 billion cut is being proposed. There are several schools of thought being expressed.
I listened to a presentation by Kevin Sulc, Deputy District Director for Congresswoman Susan Brooks, who is our representative in the House from the 5th District. Kevin explained that some of the legislators feel the proposed cut is not deep enough and others think it is too deep already. Some don’t like the idea of the nutrition program portion of the bill being separated from the agriculture portion. It sounds to me like most don’t agree on much.
I recently received a notice from Emily Bryant, the Executive Director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, our state food bank association describing the Farm Bill proposal in more detail. This next section is a part of the communication:
“I’ve attached some information that Feeding America has provided about the impact of upcoming SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit cuts due to the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) expiration when combined with the House’s nutrition proposal. As you can see, these combined cuts to SNAP will eliminate more meals than the national Feeding America network of 200+ food banks distribute in a year. Another way of looking at it is that $40B in cuts to SNAP is the equivalent of closing the nationwide network of food banks for 5 years, or requiring every single one to find an additional 7.5 million meals each year for the next 10 years.”
This idea of cutting nutrition programs to struggling families seems an odd way of working toward balancing a budget. Sorry grandma, that help you have been getting so that you can eat has been dropped, so maybe you can just eat less often? Sorry kids, we won’t be won’t be eating tonight. It will be 4 more days until we can visit a food pantry and we only have food enough for 3.
Does this sound like an extreme example to you? Well guess what, it’s reality for 74,000 people in East Central Indiana. If these cuts go through the impact will be much more profound than the Great Recession created, which was only a 46 percent increase in need for food assistance.
Tim Kean is executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. His column appears the third Sunday of each month. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.